, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 69-74

Enzymic analysis of microbial pattern and process

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Enzyme assays, once used primarily to collect descriptive information about soils, have become useful techniques for monitoring microbial activity and uncovering the mechanisms that underlie microbial processes. The simplest paradigm is that decomposition and nutrient cycling are emergent consequences of extracellular enzyme activities that are regulated directly by site-specific factors such as temperature, moisture and nutrient availability, and secondarily by litter chemistry through adsorption, inhibition and stabilization processes. In application, enzyme techniques are employed on three scales of resolution. On the largest scale, assays for ubiquitous enzymes such as phosphatase, esterase, and dehydrogenase are used as general measures of microbial activity. At higher resolution, enzyme specificity is exploited to monitor activity related to specific aspects of macronutrient cycling. At the highest resolution, the enzymatic mechanisms by which microorganisms interact with their environment are addressed.